E-value-ation

You need to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.

Irish proverb
(Com)passion flower

If someone were to ask us what we miss most about the UK ~ apart from obvious things like spending more time with loved ones ~ then I think the answer we would both give is a good library. We are avid readers and although obviously there are good libraries locally, our Spanish is not fluent enough to allow us to enjoy books with the same ease we can in English. One of our top priorities on UK road trips is to stock up on several months’ worth of reading material from charity shops, which we look after, enjoy and return to the same shops for resale on the next trip. It works a treat . . . but obviously this year we have come a bit unstuck and with no chance of a trip until October at the earliest, we are having to make do.

Simplicity

In a way, I think it’s easier for me. For starters, I can always pick up a bit of knitting instead so I don’t get through books as quickly as Roger; I’m also more inclined than he is to read books again, many times over in some cases, and I also love non-fiction books so I’m quite happy to work my way through favourite well-thumbed tomes on all sorts of subjects ~ even recipe books. Last year, we were given the generous gift of a Kindle and although being the dinosaur I am, I still prefer a paper book, it has been a really useful tool in extending our reading repertoire. There are thousands of free e-books available to download and I’ve found that it’s worth spending time trawling through the mass of titles in order to unearth some real treasures. When I was researching soap-making, I found several really useful books and now I’m pottering my way through an Open University short course in intermediate Spanish and plodding at (nearly dead) snail’s pace through a Spanish novel. It’s fun to dip into ‘subcategories’ I wouldn’t normally bother with: to that end I’m currently reading a fascinating book about ecology (a topic that has always interested me but which I’ve never really studied properly) and this is precisely how I ended up finding Be Who You Came To Be by Estelle Gillingham. Listed under ‘Self-help and Counselling’ it is most definitely not the kind of book I would usually go for but it certainly gave me a few things to think about.

Nature

Estelle Gillingham is a research chemist turned forensic healer and her book is an intricate weaving of the esoteric, Eastern philosophy, scientific research and quantum physics (and there’s a subject to set the old grey matter jingling, if ever there was one!). If I’m honest, much of the book didn’t resonate greatly with me but I loved the section about ‘values’ and the idea that we should take time to identify our personal core values, rather than those that may have come from our ancestry, upbringing, culture, education, politics, religion or whoever and whatever else may have influenced us during our lives; not that (in my humble opinion) there may be anything inherently wrong with learned values, it’s just that they don’t necessarily tell the whole story of us as individuals and unique beings. In short, it’s finding the values that truly make us us, the ones by which we should be measuring our lives and actions or, as the Irish proverb has it, doing our own growing.

Compassion

The first exercise was to choose a set of fifteen values from a list of almost 420, ranged alphabetically from abundance to zeal, then reduce those to ten and ultimately to five or six. Well, talk about falling at the first hurdle. Fifteen? Try at least forty-five! I found it so difficult to whittle them down that I ended up adopting my own approach of gathering words together in bundles and then reflecting carefully on which one would best serve as a beacon for the lot. So, for instance, in a week that saw us celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and Sam and Adrienne’s second, along with the seventh birthday of our eldest grandchild Ben, you would expect love, marriage, partnership and family to be pretty high on the list . . . but there goes four of my five or six straight away! For these and the values I had grouped with them, I decided compassion ~ literally ‘suffering with’ ~ was the absolute core.

Compassion

Affection, care, commitment, courtesy, empathy, ethics, fairness, family, fidelity, friendship, kindness, love, loyalty, marriage, nurture, patience, partnership, thoughtfulness, trust.

Compassion

At this point, I’d like to say I never intended for this to become a blog post; I simply opted to use WordPress editor as a useful place to gather my thoughts, especially as the next task was to find pictures to represent my chosen values and, being an incurable photoholic, my media library seemed the obvious place to go. The fact that it morphed into a post that feels quite different for me came as a bit of a surprise and I understand if readers decide it’s not for them. I’m just very grateful that anyone ever takes precious time out of their day to read my ramblings! For those who are brave or curious enough to continue, here is the rest of my list:

Simplicity

Balance, calmness, comfort, contentment, freedom, frugality, happiness, honesty, humility, integrity, practicality, pragmatism, realism, relaxation, rest, tranquility.

Simplicity

Gratitude

Appreciation, celebration, cheerfulness, generosity, giving, joy, optimism, peace, thankfulness, warmth.

Gratitude

Nature

Conservation, diversity, environmentalism, outdoors, respect, silence, solitude, stillness.

Nature

Wonder

Adventure, amazement, attentiveness, awareness, awe, curiosity, delight, discovery, excitement, exploration, fascination, inquisitiveness, learning, reflection, understanding.

Wonder

Creativity

Adaptability, challenge, communication, enjoyment, expressiveness, flexibility, imagination, inspiration, language, resourcefulness, teaching.

Creativity

Well, not quite the rest because at this point I ran out of road having stretched to six core values but I still had another group that I really didn’t want to abandon. What to do? In the end, I decided I would just have to break the ‘rules’ and include it anyway as a seventh value; after all, there’s a good reason that I haven’t listed obedience anywhere! πŸ™‚

Vitality

Activity, agility, change, enthusiasm, fitness, fun, growth, health, liveliness, playfulness, resilience, spontaneity, surprise.

Vitality

Obviously, there is a lot of potential cross-over here: nature looks a bit on the thin side but I could add much of what’s in the other lists to that section, too. In fact, it would be very easy to get carried away with words flying left, right and centre. I did add a few ideas of my own such as nurture, celebration and language, all of which are important aspects of my life, but otherwise I tried to sort the values into the category which I felt had the overall ‘best fit.’

So what exactly is the point of all this? There are people who have hailed Be Who You Came To Be as incredibly life-changing and others who dismiss it as a load of New Age woo woo; I suppose I fall somewhere between, but the idea of reflecting on my core values and looking at how well I apply them to my everyday life is certainly something I find to be an engaging activity. For example, I’m still feeling really thrilled with my recent indigo dyeing escapade and in fact, I can see all seven core values running through the natural dyeing activities I’ve been messing with so far. Some might seem more obvious than others but elements of them all are most definitely there. This had me thinking that maybe what I should be focusing on are those things I don’t enjoy quite so much in life . . .

Wonder

. . . so how, for example, could I bring more creativity or vitality to a supermarket trip? It’s certainly one to ponder! One of my favourite yoga teachers recommends adopting a yogi squat posture in a shopping queue, partly because it’s so much kinder on the back and legs than standing for any length of time or leaning idly on a trolley, but also because in allowing ourselves to be ‘vulnerable’ to other people’s reactions ~ surprise, bewilderment, amusement, disapproval, frowns, smiles, comments or whatever ~ we become stronger and more comfortable in our own skins and, ultimately, truer to our real selves. Perhaps a bit of yoga at the checkout then? Or maybe I should start humming ‘Hot Stuff’ and see if I can get a bit of a Full Monty thing going? πŸ™‚ I certainly think there’s an argument for more playfulness in the world. When I was teaching, I stuck a sign that read ‘Life must be lived as play’ on my classroom door as a gentle reminder to everyone who entered, whether child or adult, that learning should be fun. It wasn’t something I’d invented, but was written by the philospher Plato in Ancient Greece: how long it takes us to see the truth in ancient wisdom!

Vitality

If nothing else, this happy little exercise seems to have left me with an enormous boost of energy and has prodded me into all sorts of unexpected busyness over the last couple of weeks. I’ve dug out my sewing machine and made a summer nightie from a remnant of cotton fabric, the first dressmaking I’ve done in over seven years. I winged it a bit without using a pattern and in the process, I learnt the very clever ‘hotdog’ technique for lining a bodice . . . which had the ridiculous knock-on effect of me humming Led Zeppelin’s ‘Hot Dog’ for several days afterwards.

Creativity

If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s the mosy un-Zepplike track imaginable (sort of rock meets country and western meets ragtime) which for years has raised a collective groan from Roger and our sprogs because it brings me out in an uncontrollable frenzy of embarrassing dance moves every time I hear it. Well, having read recently about research that has shown how even one minute a day of shaking your tail feathers to music that makes you smile can increase happiness and productivity, I’m having some very happy ‘Hot Dog’ moments and it can only be a matter of time before I break out the B52’s ‘Love Shack.’ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Gratitude

I’m having a short break from running but I’ve taken to striding out on walks in all weathers, particularly into the woods, to really observe, study and learn more about the flora and fauna around me. I’ve started tackling the chaos that is our undereaves storage, trying to bring a sense of order to what has become an easy ‘dumping’ ground. I’ve ordered seeds for indigo, woad, dyer’s chamomile, weld and madder so that I can create a dyer’s border in the garden, something I’ve been threatening to do for almost ten years now. I’ve bought a beautiful yellow ‘eco’ descant recorder (made from plant-based materials) with the intention of going right back to basics and rediscovering my love of making music. I’m not claiming to have ‘found myself’ ~ no thanks, that would be far too scary! ~ but I’m having a lot of fun . . . and that is something I truly value in my life. πŸ™‚

Practising for the supermarket . . .

8 thoughts on “E-value-ation

  1. Your posts always, always make me smile and often shed a tear. I am always blown away by the beauty of your garden and the stunning scenery of Asturias.
    This post made me think and laugh out loud- I DARE you to do the supermarket squat!! Photographic proof please!
    In these strange times we’re living in you have captured the mood of many Lis- I truly hope we all continue to hold true to these values every day going forward.
    Much love mi amiga xxx

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    1. Ah, thank you for such a lovely comment. πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s definitely time to hold on to what we believe in and be true to ourselves, I think. I would be so thrilled to see good things for the world come out of such a difficult time. I’ll need to build up to that supermarket squat but maybe in the meantime we should practise ‘Hot Stuff’ for a duet when you next visit? Watch out, Alimerka!!!! xxx πŸ™‚

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  2. Oh goodness, Lis, you’re so productive and thoughtful. I wish I could send you some of my books
    which have outgrown the bookcase and any spare shelf we have and are now proliferating on the top shelf in the wardrobe, but I fear the postage would be prohibitive. Also, I’m a novel reader with a few dips into non-fiction.
    I love your photo of the bench with the knitted blanket: an invitation to sit in the dappled sunlight and read for a day!

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    1. Thank you, Jane! It’s a lovely offer but yes, the thought of postage makes my eyes water – it’s bad enough within Europe! We have our fingers crossed for an October trip and will be leaving plenty of boot space for stocking up on books, we go to a wonderful charity bookshop which is beautifully laid out and the books are as good as new, so it’s always a treat. The volunteers who run it love the fact that we are their ‘Spanish branch’ of customers. We’ve had that bench for years and Roger has just replaced all the timber so we can sit on it again without the danger of it collapsing. I’m planning to take my recorder down there and tootle away a bit, thankfully for the neighbours I’ve learnt how to mute it! πŸ™‚ Hope that you are staying safe and well in Australia.

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  3. Really enjoyed this post Lis, very thought-provoking and interesting to read. Not sure the book would be quite my cup of tea but certainly lots to think about and I do like the idea of identifying core values. Good luck with the supermarket yoga poses πŸ˜€ and looking forward to seeing photos of your dyer’s border when it’s all planted πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it was one of those books that I really wasn’t sure about and didn’t even think I’d finish but I quite enjoy the challenge of grappling with something a bit ‘different’ occasionally. Think I’ll leave the supermarket yoga until we can ditch the masks!!! πŸ™‚ Very excited about growing some dyes, I’m planning to go foraging for Queen Anne’s lace this week which is supposed to make a good yellow. We’ll see! Hope the sun is shining in Stavanger! xx

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  4. Love this Lis. Lots to relate to ! I acquired my local library ticket just before the quarantine and so my resolution to borrow and read more in Spanish fell by the wayside! I have used my kindle non stop but must admit to fiction being my current go to..
    It is so hot here, my brain feels like melting and I simply need a diversion, under the fan for the hottest part of the day! This very strange 2020 has given me lots of time to reflect on core values..I love yours! Patience is one that I always thought I was endowed with, missing the children and grandchildren has tried it somewhat!
    Hopefully September but I must remember not to wish away the days!

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne! I try really hard to read in Spanish when I can (actually, it’s without doubt my strongest skill in the language) but sometimes my brain feels completely fried . . . and that’s without your high heat! I’m not a fan of reading off a screen for too long but I’m so grateful for the technology. Hope you’re managing to cool off in the evenings, we’re having a warm spell here ~ mid to high twenties ~ I know it’s small fry compared to Murcia but we are having to water the garden which is fairly unusual. Hang on to that patience, all fingers crossed for September! πŸ™‚

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